Tunisian Health Minister fired as pandemic stocks fear

The Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi over reccurring mess at the department overwhelmed by the pandemic that has stocked fear in the North African country.

A statement by the Premier announced Tuesday the immediate removal of Faouzi Mehdi who was appointed in August last year.

“We did an evaluation of the leadership in the department six months ago. Today, it turns out that this decision was right. We have been waiting, taking into account the interest of the state. Now it is no longer possible and it is the Tunisians who pay the price. There is an extraordinary dysfunction at the head of the department. I do not recognize the department although it is full of scientific and managerial skills, but the mishaps recorded during the day-to-day management of the crisis have made us take this decision,” Mechichi said.

The decision came following a scramble at public vaccination stations launched by authorities for two days starting from Eid al-Adha. Thousands of citizens reportedly stormed the 29 stations causing mess with risk of further contaminations.

“I find myself for the third time in the department to point out dysfunctions. The oxygen shortage is inconceivable. There was a supply problem the first time and the same problem happened again. For the vaccination campaign, I called for the basic health centers to be involved, but this was not done, although this call was made by health professionals. Today, we take a populist decision, and organize an open day without informing either the head of government, or the governors, or the police. I consider this decision to be criminal. This image does not suit the image of Tunisia,” Mechichi complained.

“Yes, we are starting to get vaccines, and we want to expand the vaccination campaign, but not in this way. 29 centers were opened today, but no one knew about it. Citizens were not aware that each center had only 800 doses of vaccine. This mismanagement shows that our decision since January was justified,” he stressed.

Tunisia has been wrestling with the pandemic and has reported more half a million cases since the report of the first case in February 2020. Over 17,000 people have died in connection with the pandemic while over 400,000 have recovered.

The alarming situation has forced authorities to turn to international support for vaccines and medical supply to meet the needs. Several countries, including Morocco, heeded the calls and sent supplies.

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